By Ryan Maquiñana
Flanked by Trainer of the Year candidate Virgil Hunter and promoter Dan Goossen, WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward of Oakland recently held his Media Day at his hometown training grounds of King’s Gym.
While “S.O.G.” did not work out, the aforementioned trio was gracious enough to field questions until everyone had asked their fill. Here’s what Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) told BoxingScene.com ahead of his Dec. 17 Showtime Super Six final in Atlantic City against WBC counterpart Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) of England.
BoxingScene: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Andre. First and foremost, it’s now been about two months since you incurred the cut over your right eyebrow. It looks like it has properly healed, but can you go into detail on it?
Andre Ward: Like when it reportedly first came out, it was a weird type of thing. We took all the protective measures. We had grease and everything that we needed. It happened. We dealt with it accordingly. We got the best doctor to stitch me up. We took a mandatory rest period, and now we’re back at it. The cut is a non-issue.
Virgil Hunter: The cut has no factor at all in preparation. You can’t focus on one area and say he’s going to particularly focus on it. We’re targeting his nose. Got to get that out of the way. And then his mouth. So we’re not concerned about that.
BoxingScene: Andre, you’ve essentially had to have a second training camp. Have you approached this any differently, maybe with a sense of caution perhaps? Does it concern that you that Froch might target the healed cut as a point of weakness?
Andre Ward: Him targeting the cut is again a non-issue for us. That’s not something we talk about or think about. We have to execute our gameplan. We’re preparing physically the way we’re supposed to. And hey, as the opponent, that’s what he’s supposed to do. But I think he can possibly get himself in trouble trying to focus too hard on opening an old cut. He’s been cut before too, like in that fight with Pascal. He puffs up and bleeds, so he has a lot of targets that we’re going to be targeting, too.
BoxingScene: You’re one of the best fighters in the world as far as taking away your opponent’s best weapons, and your trainer Virgil Hunter does an outstanding job of planning out a fight. What weapons are you looking to take away from Froch? Does anything stick out to you?
Andre Ward: I think the gameplan is going to be a little of everything. If you watch my fights, that’s what we always try to do. We try not to fight one style because at this level, eventually enough people are going to watch tape on you, and they’re going to take advantage of that if you’re one-dimensional, so you’re going to see me get inside and get rough, and not just get rough, but be effective. I also have to do what have to do outside, inside, mid-range, a little bit of everything. I think the key will be to keep everything mixed up.
Virgil Hunter: You know what? I can’t say he has any outstanding weapon for sure. I mean, it’s not like we’re coming in preparing for Thomas Hearns’ right hand or anything. We’re going to try to take all his weapons away. Every single thing he’s got, we’re trying to handcuff, so not anything in particular. We’re trying to be the weapon. We intend to be the weapon. It’s his weapon against ours.
BoxingScene: Froch has said a lot of things to disparage you, including that he’d like to render you unconscious. Does that bother you at all, or is it just gamesmanship?
Andre Ward: It motivates me because I’m a father. I got a wife. I got a family, and there’s a part of me that says that’s not going to happen. That’s the part that fuels me, that motivates me. He’s saying I can’t punch, and that’s OK. I know what I got. The beauty of the actual fight date is that you get an opportunity where the truth comes out. Is he a little annoying? Sure. But in terms of taking me out of my game or having me angry to the point where I just lose it, it’s not going to happen. He’s barking up the wrong tree with that. But hey, let him keep talking, let him keep doing what he’s doing. I’m going to stay focused, and I’m going to have a chance to speak on December 17th.
BoxingScene: This is a big opportunity to fight for the first time on the East Coast against a British fighter with a lot at stake, on Showtime no less. Do you think this is the type of fight that gets you closer to being a crossover star in America?
Andre Ward: These are the kind of fights that you have to fight and you have to win in order for you to cross over, so this is huge in terms of the stakes that are on the line. But not only that, every fight gets bigger and bigger. From day one, I always approach every training camp this way. We prepare for every fight like there’s no tomorrow, and this fight isn’t any different.
Dan Goossen: It will be another step toward crossing over, and it’s always great to fight on the East Coast as well as the West Coast. It is going to be a broadcast that has that worldwide appeal because you do have America against Europe right now. And those are good ingredients to have, not that there’s anything from the standpoint of anything other than bragging rights, and we feel we have the best athletes in America. And as Andre did with the Olympics in 2004, I think he’ll get those same type of goosebumps knowing he’s going to be fighting for America.
BoxingScene: The Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III fight last week was marked by controversy, especially because there are those who felt that Pacquiao won rounds on the judges’ cards mainly based on his propensity to come forward and initiate action, and not necessarily prioritizing Marquez’ counterpunching, which others felt carried him to victory. Does that enter your mind as far as your concern about the judges maybe doing the same thing on Dec. 17th if you’re not aggressive enough?
Andre Ward: I think I lead, I think I counter. I do a little bit of everything. I’m not worried about that. I can’t go into a fight worried about thing like, ‘What if I get cut, or what if I break my hand?’ You think about this stuff, but you don’t harp on it. I’m just going to do what I’m going to do and hope to keep getting better each time out.
Virgil Hunter: I think that trend of judging started with the rise of M M A. It’s not about science anymore, but rather who busted who in the teeth. But it’s no time to worry about the judges, that’s for sure. Watching the Froch-Johnson fight, body language signified a lot for me. You just can’t worry about that stuff because it’s not in your hands. You have to win round by round, so that’s none of our concern.
BoxingScene: I know you don’t want to look past Froch, but down the line, if you win, you’re looking at maybe another unification battle with Lucian Bute, and many have clamored for a fight with Sergio Martinez if he ever decides to move up from middleweight one day. Do you have a preference on the route you’d like to take?
Andre Ward: All of them are good fights down the road. I don’t know if Martinez will move up because the weight might be too big for him, but he’s a great fighter and it would be a great fight, too. The winner of [Mikkel] Kessler and [Robert] Stieglitz is another one as far as cleaning out the division. I read on BoxingScene that report about if Kessler wins, that they’d put up $10 million for me to go to Copenhagen if I win the Super Six. Very interesting article. The Bute fight would be another good one because he’s a talented fighter as well, but as with all of them, it remains to be seen. I’m focusing on Froch for now and giving the fans and the boxing world a great performance.
Dan Goossen: The great thing about taking those steps to greatness is that it allows you to have various scenarios out there that make it a big fight.
BoxingScene: Like Martinez?
Dan Goossen: Exactly. There’s all various types of fighters, and they’re constantly coming. A year ago, if you would have said Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz would have done 1.2 million homes, someone would have called you nuts. Heres’ a guy that quit and was vilified by the fans and the media, but yet, [he] comes out and gets that one great win against [Andre] Berto and here is fighting Floyd Mayweather. So you never know when that next big opportunity comes. We’ve got a lot of things out there. You’ve got all those fights you’ve already mentioned, and we’ve got the fights you don’t know about yet.
BoxingScene: Do you have any parting words to your fans in the Bay Area and around the world, along with a prediction for the fight?
Andre Ward: To the Bay Area fans, I love and appreciate you. I get more love here than anywhere else in the world, and rightfully so, being that I’m homegrown. I’m going to continue to grow and get better. I’m a young fighter. I’m going to continue to put on great performances and bring it back to Oakland. I appreciate the support, and we’re looking to get our hands raised on December 17th.
Ryan Maquiñana is the boxing correspondent at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at www.maqdown.com or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.